Government to Amend Liberal Studies Exam Despite Objections from Teachers

PTU News Reporter

Review on implementation of New Academic Structure

The Education Bureau (EDB) announced last month “New Academic Structure Medium-term Review and Beyond” where the committees of four subjects (namely Mathematics, Liberal Studies, Tourism and Hospitality Studies, and Visual Arts) considered that an extended consultation is necessary to collect more feedback on some of the details regarding the recommendations for these four subjects. For the curriculum of Liberal Studies, more detailed views will be collected on how to improve the question designs in the public examination to cater better for learner diversity, and reflect a balanced coverage of the six modules of the Liberal Studies curriculum.

Increasing the number of elective questions and adjusting the duration of examination

In the extended consultation paper on the Liberal Studies, the EDB proposed some amendments on Paper 1 of the Liberal Studies exam, including that one more elective question will be added and the paper duration will be increased to 2 hours 30 minutes. The current paper is now composed of three compulsory questions which must be answered within 2 hours. The EDB justifies that the amendments will cover more modules which can cater to the different capabilities and interests of students. However, we think that the amendments are simply not justified at all, and the EDB not only turns a deaf ear to the sector, but also creates a new burden for teachers and students.

Unjustified Amendments

In the briefing session of the Consultation, representatives of the EDB gave two reasons why an extended consultation is needed: to better consolidate the opinions expressed by different stakeholders during the previous consultation, and to explore the operationalization of the measures proposed during the previous consultation. However, the reasons above are totally contradictory to the result of the survey conducted by the EDB which revealed that around 76% of the teachers of Liberal Studies disagreed on any amendment of examination format of Liberal Studies, and only 11% of the teachers replied that change is needed. Moreover, around 87% of the teachers agreed (and very much agreed) that the examination format and content are consistent with the curriculum aims of Liberal Studies, and only 9% of them did not agree. Therefore we could conclude that most of our colleagues did not think that it is necessary to make any amendments on the examination format of the Liberal Studies. And we wonder if the EDB had thoroughly looked into the survey result when she made the amendments on the examination format.

90% of Attendees against Amendments

Around 15 teachers raised questions and expressed their opinions in the briefing session of the Consultation held on 31 March, and 11 of whom were against the amendments of the examination format proposed by the EDB. They thought that the new amendments would be inconsistent with the curriculum aims, stop critical and independent thinking and encourage excessive drilling practices. Moreover, many teachers were convinced that the elective question added in the Paper 1 would not be able to cater to the diversity of students, and would on the contrary worsen the learning burden of students. One of the colleagues even invited those attendees to vote by hand on site and 90% of the attendees objected to the amendments, and thought that it is more crucial for the Government to increase the resources and reduce the teacher-to-students ratio to more effectively cater to the diversity of students.

EB turns deaf ear to the plea of more manpower needed

We think that additional elective question and time in Paper 1 will substantially increase teachers?teaching hours and students?pressure, especially that of students with special need. Moreover, since the amendment includes a change of examination format, we are worried that this will affect the overseas accreditation status of this subject.

In our opinion, any amendments of examination format should be aligned with the educational principles. Moreover, the EDB should also listen to the front-line teachers and respect the professional views. The amendments proposed and the consultations conducted are unnecessary and unprofessional. We feel so sorry that the EDB has still been turning deaf ear to the demands of our teachers of Liberal Studies, including our request of increasing the number of the permanent teaching posts of Liberal Studies and allocating more resources to the education of Liberal Studies.

Therefore, we object to all the proposed amendments by the EDB on the examination format, including any change on the duration of examination and the number of questions. We urge the Government to withdraw all their proposed amendments on the examination of Liberal Studies. Instead the Government should enhance the teaching manpower and boost up the teaching resources, so that the well-being of our teachers and students can be substantially improved.